'We had several cracks at it': Thunder can't take advantage of late turnover in overtime loss to Pacers

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The Thunder, down one point in overtime, trapped the Pacers and forced a steal with 20 seconds left.

What looked like an easy three-on-one chance at a go-ahead bucket instead turned into a bungled game of hot potato.

Darius Bazley had a great look at a layup, but, quite puzzlingly, he dumped off a pass rather than going up. Thunder rookie Tre Mann collected the ball and missed from under the basket. Mike Muscala tried to tip the ball in, but he too missed.

“I haven’t seen the replay on it,” Thunder coach Mark Daigneault said. “I thought (Bazley) was well-intentioned … We had several cracks at it there and throughout the game, so it’s not one play.”

Even after all of that, it looked like Kenrich Williams had drained a game-tying 3-pointer with three seconds left, but the Pacers smartly fouled before the shot. The cheers after Williams’ make drowned out the referee’s whistle.

Needing to make the first and miss the second free throw after the foul, Muscala missed the first foul shot and intentionally missed the second, but OKC lost the last-ditch scramble.

The Pacers prevailed 113-110 on Friday night at Paycom Center. It was the Thunder’s first overtime game of the season.

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Pacers forward Oshae Brissett (12) knocks the ball back out in the final seconds of overtime Friday at Paycom Center. Indiana beat OKC 113-110.
Pacers forward Oshae Brissett (12) knocks the ball back out in the final seconds of overtime Friday at Paycom Center. Indiana beat OKC 113-110.

The game won’t be remembered for its visual appeal, but Bazley’s hesitation and the Thunder’s botched ending might be remembered on draft lottery night.

Indiana, hobbled by several key injuries, has emerged as a surprise entrant in the tank race, so OKC’s loss, as confounding as it looked, gave the Thunder a comfortable three-game cushion over the Pacers in the upside down standings.

OKC, losers of seven straight, is tied with Houston for the third-worst record in the league. The bottom three teams all have a 14% chance at the No. 1 pick.

The Thunder led by 16 points in the third quarter, and six points in overtime, but it failed to hang onto either lead as the offense, sorely missing Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (right ankle sprain), fell into prolonged funks.

OKC didn’t score in the final 2:20 of regulation, which allowed the Pacers to crawl even. And after Luguentz Dort hit back-to-back 3-pointers in overtime, the Pacers finished the game on an 11-2 run.

“It’s the NBA,” Thunder rookie Josh Giddey said. “You can’t give teams that many chances.”

Dort led the Thunder with 27 points on 10-of-16 shooting.

Pacers big man Domantas Sabonis muscled his way to 24 points, 18 rebounds and 10 assists.

Justin Holiday had 22 points for the Pacers on clutch 4-of-7 3-point shooting.

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Thunder guard Josh Giddey (3) and Darius Bazley (7) react in the final seconds of a 113-110 overtime loss to the Pacers on Friday at Paycom Center.
Thunder guard Josh Giddey (3) and Darius Bazley (7) react in the final seconds of a 113-110 overtime loss to the Pacers on Friday at Paycom Center.

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SGA injured

Gilgeous-Alexander rolled his ankle as he was fouled by Sabonis on a drive to the basket early in the third quarter.

Gilgeous-Alexander winced, and it was clear something was wrong.

Gilgeous-Alexander missed both of his free throws, and the Thunder committed a foul so SGA could sub out.

Gilgeous-Alexander limped off the floor and straight to the locker room without even considering stopping at the bench.

Gilgeous-Alexander scored 10 points with three assists and two rebounds in 17 minutes before exiting.

The Thunder officially ruled him out in the fourth quarter with a right ankle sprain.

Daigneault said after the game that the team will know more on Saturday.

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Oklahoma City Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2) passes the ball as Indiana Pacers forward Domantas Sabonis (11) defends during an NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Indiana Pacers at Paycom Center in Oklahoma City, Friday, Jan. 28, 2022.
Oklahoma City Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2) passes the ball as Indiana Pacers forward Domantas Sabonis (11) defends during an NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Indiana Pacers at Paycom Center in Oklahoma City, Friday, Jan. 28, 2022.

Starting small

Daigneault didn’t reveal his starters before the game, which made the unveiling before tip-off all the more intriguing.

Four guards — Gilgeous-Alexander, Dort, Giddey, Tre Mann — and one big: Jeremiah Robinson-Earl.

“I thought it was a good night to do it, just based on the matchup,” Daigneault said. “They’re perimeter-oriented, other than Sabonis.”

For Mann, it was just his third start of the season, and it was the first time that five-man group had started together.

It produced a few highlights, most notably a behind-the-back pass from Giddey to Gilgeous-Alexander for a transition slam.

The four guards played the first 10 minutes of the first quarter together. OKC led Indiana 30-29 after one.

The Thunder got out and ran, outscoring the Pacers 10-0 in fast-break points in the first quarter.

Daigneault started the second half with Mike Muscala over Robinson-Earl — giving the young Thunder guards even more space to operate.

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Maledon returns

Theo Maledon checked in to start the second quarter — his first NBA action in three weeks.

Maledon was back with the big-league club after an impressive G League stint.

In 14 games with the OKC Blue, Maledon averaged 17.7 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.3 assists on 50% shooting.

The Thunder recalled Maledon from the Blue on Thursday, and Daigneault wanted to reward Maledon with playing time.

Maledon had three points, two assists and two rebounds in 13 minutes off the bench.

“Little bit of a rough start, little bit of maybe nerves or rhythm or something like that,” Daigneault said of Maledon’s minutes. “Then when we went back to him in the second half he settled into the game.”

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No Aaron Wiggins?

Aaron Wiggins has been a semi-regular starter for the Thunder, and the rookie had played in every game since Dec. 23 before getting a DNP-coach’s decision on Friday.

Wiggins stayed on the bench even after Gilgeous-Alexander exited, which left the Thunder a man down.

Daigneault called it a “numbers game.” In other words, not enough minutes for all of the young guys to play. Daigneault said it’s nothing against Wiggins, who’s played well.

Wiggins, drafted 55th overall, is averaging 7.4 points and 3.3 rebounds per game.

This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: Thunder can't take advantage of turnover in overtime loss to Pacers